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Ki Yun Jo, owner of Thorsby Fas Gas station owner, was struck and killed during a gas-and-dash incident.

Man sentenced to 7 years for gas and dash death of Alberta gas station owner

A man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the gas-and-dash death of an Alberta gas station owner has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

Mitchell Robert Sydlowski, 29, appeared Friday by video link in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Wetaskiwin, Alta.

Sydlowski, who is from Spruce Grove, Alta., was charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in August to the lesser offence, as well as failing to remain at the scene of a fatal accident.

“It goes without saying that this is a tragic situation,” Justice John William Hopkins said as he delivered Sydlowski’s sentence during an online court hearing.

Ki Yun Jo, owner of Thorsby Fas Gas station owner, was struck and killed during a gas-and-dash incident.

Ki Yun Jo, owner of Thorsby Fas Gas station owner, was struck and killed during a gas-and-dash incident.

An agreed statement of facts submitted in the case said 54-year old Ki Yun Jo was killed after Sydlowski sped off in a stolen cube van without paying for $198 of fuel. It happened outside Jo’s Fas Gas station in Thorsby, about 70 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, on Oct. 6, 2017.

A witness saw Jo hanging onto the van’s passenger side mirror and, when the vehicle swerved, he was tossed to the ground and run over by the rear tires of the van.

Court heard Jo died at the scene after suffering multiple blunt force injuries – a skull fracture, a broken neck and internal bleeding, despite the efforts of a retired EMT, a registered nurse and a firefighter who tried to administer first aid.

Jo’s daughter, Ka Yung Jo, said in a victim impact statement to the court last month that her dad’s death was the worst day of her life.

“My dad was senselessly and cruelly taken away from me,” she said. “Since then, my world has changed completely.”

She said she, her mom and her brother had to take over the gas station and had a difficult time running the business. They ended up selling it and moving away from the town.

Jo said her dad’s death left her family financially unstable and heartbroken.

“What I hated most was the man who ended my dad’s life,” she said. “He killed my father and ruined me, my life, my family and everything.”

The judge said it’s clear the death affected the family and the small town of Thorsby.

“The victim impact statement demonstrates the horrible impact this had on the family of Mr. Jo and the ultimate sale of the family business,” Hopkins said.

He said he recognizes no sentence will alleviate the pain and suffering, but he noted that the early guilty pleas came in advance of a trial during a global pandemic.

“It prevented the calling of numerous civilian witnesses and the family having to relive the minute details of the incident,” he said.

The judge also noted Sydlowski’s statement to the court expressing remorse for his actions.

“I am so sorry for the pain I have caused your family,” Sydlowski said during his sentencing hearing on Aug. 14. “I did not intend for any of this to happen.”

His seven-year sentence includes six years for manslaughter and one year for failing to remain at the scene. It will be reduced by about three years for time served prior to the guilty plea.

The judge also imposed a 10-year driving prohibition once Sydlowski gets out of prison.

The Crown had recommended a sentence of six to eight years, while Sydlowski’s lawyer suggested it should be at the lower end of the Crown’s recommendation because of the guilty pleas.

Hopkins said there may be one positive that can be taken from the tragedy.

“There was a change in legislation that took place thereafter requiring payment before pumping gas to prevent this from happening again to other vulnerable gas or convenience store clerks,” he said.


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Alberta introduces legislation to regulate vaping, ban e cigarettes for minors

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Alberta has introduced new legislation on vaping that would include a ban on anyone under 18 from using e-cigarettes.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says there is mounting evidence on the health risks of vaping and statistics show more young people in Alberta are indulging.

“Strong action needs to be taken to address significant increases in youth vaping,” Shandro said Tuesday prior to introducing the bill in the house.

Shandro’s ministry says that in the last five years, vaping rates among high school students has risen to 30% from eight. It also says evidence continues to show health risks, including lung damage and nicotine poisoning.

Alberta is the only province without vaping legislation.

“No one fully knows yet all the health harms from vaping, but the recent emergence of vaping-associated lung illnesses and deaths is a warning,” said Shandro.

“Vaping is not a harmless behaviour without short- or long-term consequences.”

If the bill passes, there would be restrictions _ matching those in place for traditional tobacco products _ on displaying and promoting vaping products in stores. Speciality vape stores would be exempt.

The province said it does not intend to ban or restrict flavours for e-cigarettes, but the bill proposes cabinet be allowed to make such restrictions once the law is passed and proclaimed.

The legislation would also expand the list of places where traditional smoking and vaping would be banned _ adding playgrounds, sports fields, skateboard and bicycle parks, and public outdoor pools _ to further avoid exposing youth to products and second-hand smoke.

Vaping would also be banned in places where smoking is already forbidden, such as hospitals, post-secondary schools and stores where pharmacies are located.

If the bill passes, the new rules are expected to take effect sometime this fall.

The legislation follows a review of vaping that began last year. The government said 250 people were consulted and another 9,500 provided online comments.

NDP health critic David Shepherd said the legislation is necessary and sends the right message, but it could be improved.

Shepherd wants flavoured vaping products sold only in age-restricted specialty stores.

“We know that flavouring is a way of attracting young users,” said Shepherd.

The issues of flavoured products remains up for debate.

Nova Scotia recently banned the sale of flavoured vaping products. Prince Edward Island has indicated it plans to do the same.

In B.C., the sale of vape flavours will only be allowed in age-restricted shops.

Alberta joins the majority of other provinces and territories in Canada that have set 18 as the minimum age for buying and using tobacco and vaping products.

P.E.I. recently raised the minimum age to 21.

 

 


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Canal route brings Alberta crude to Eastern Canada

UnknownCanada is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of oil and the third-largest repository of proven reserves of which 96% come from Alberta’s oil sands. This month Alberta got a new export customer for its heavy crude: Plans are to ship product to this customer via the Panama Canal in medium-sized Aframax ocean tankers. Surprising to learn that the customer is Halifax-based Irving Oil, a Canadian major that had hoped to get Alberta crude via an east-west pipeline that has been in discussion since 2013. The ‘Energy East’ pipe faced an uphill battle with Quebec and First Nations groups voicing concerns. The project was scrapped in 2017 leaving Irving without easy access to the massive Alberta oil store.

Last week the company announced the Federal Government had agreed to its April 13 request for an urgent need for more crude oil for its refineries. The government granted Irving a one year permit to bring Alberta heavy oil sands crude from Pacific tidewater to its facility in New Brunswick.

Reports quote Irving Oil chief refining and supply officer Kevin Scott saying, “It is critical to our customers, to our business, and to energy security throughout Atlantic Canada that we are able to use foreign crude oil tankers to access Western Canadian crude oil on an urgent basis and going forward for one year to allow for effective and flexible supply chain planning and to strengthen the link between Canadian oil producers and our refinery in this challenging and uncertain time.”

Irving will ship its Western Canadian oil 11,771 kilometres from British Columbia through the Panama Canal to its Canaport facility in Saint John, NB. Irving will also source Canadian oil delivered through ports in Texas and Louisiana. Altogether the route is more than twice the length of the once proposed Energy East pipeline that would have run 4,600 kilometres.

Irving Oil operates Canada’s largest refinery in Saint John and has a network of more than 900 fuelling locations and 20 Big Stop convenience centres. The company provides heating oil, diesel, gasoline as well as lubricants and a range of other products to markets in Canada, the U.S. and Ireland.


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Alberta Appeal Court sides with Alberta on federal carbon tax

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 10.44.00 AMThe Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled that the federal carbon tax is not constitutional.

In a 4-1 decision, the court says the legislation that brought in the tax erodes provincial jurisdiction.

The Alberta government had argued in its challenge of the tax that climate change isn’t a national issue requiring overriding federal intervention.

The federal government countered by saying climate change is a national and global concern that can’t be left to each of the provinces to take on alone.

The majority of the Appeal Court judges sided with the province.

“The act is a constitutional Trojan horse,” said the portion of the decision written by three of the four majority justices.

The court rejected federal arguments that reducing greenhouse gases met the legal test of being a national concern.

“Almost every aspect of the provinces’ development and management of their natural resources … would be subject to federal regulation.”

It noted health care, minimum wages and justice are all national concerns but are administered by the provinces.

The court ruled that, for something to be a national concern within federal jurisdiction, it would have to be beyond the scope of provincial powers.

Monday’s decision is the first to side with a province against the federal government.

Courts in both Saskatchewan and Ontario upheld the federal levy last year.

The Supreme Court of Canada is to hear Saskatchewan’s appeal of its court’s decision this spring.


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Alberta justice minister says province will ‘fight back’ against carbon tax

Alberta is promising to continue its fight against the federal consumer carbon tax as the price of gasoline in the province is set to jump.

The federal Liberals are accompanying the tax with a rebate program.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer told a news conference at a Calgary truck stop on December 31 that people should gas up quickly.

“We want to make sure as well that Albertans know that even though our taxes are going up, that we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that we fight back against this federal overreach and make sure Albertans know that we have their backs,” Schweitzer said.

The federal government says the average Alberta household will receive about $880 under the rebate program, which is about $170 more than it is expected to pay.

Schweitzer said he doesn’t believe that will be the case.

“I don’t buy that at all. Look at Albertans right now. Alberta is struggling. We need jobs in this province,” he said.

“The cost of everything is going to start going up.”

The four-cent increase represents a carbon tax of $20 per tonne of carbon dioxide, increasing to $30 in the spring.

Those who live in small or rural communities will receive a higher rebate, and fuel used for farm machinery can be exempted from the tax.

Municipalities, public institutions, small businesses and Indigenous communities are also to receive extra funding to help them lower their energy costs.

Alberta is challenging the federal tax in the province’s Court of Appeal. Arguments were heard in December and the court has yet to rule.

Ontario and Saskatchewan lost previous challenges of the tax in their top courts and are appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada. Alberta is supporting them in their legal action.

“We’re waiting to see what the Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision will have in the New Year. And we’re hoping to have that decision done before the Supreme Court case, which is going to be heard in March,” Schweitzer said.

“We’re going to keep that fight going. This is federal overreach plain and simple. This is clearly provincial jurisdiction.”

Alberta had a consumer carbon tax under the previous New Democrat government, which was rescinded by the United Conservatives in May. The government has since imposed a carbon tax of $30 a tonne on industrial emitters, which has been approved by Ottawa.

“Alberta is doing its part to tackle global emissions. Our plan invests in real technological solutions. It doesn’t punish people for driving to work and heating their homes,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday on Twitter.

He said his government won’t relent in its legal fight against the consumer tax.

“We won’t roll over like the previous NDP government did. This is Alberta’s jurisdiction, and we will fight for it.”


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Alberta reports first severe vaping related lung illness to Public Health Agency

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 3.17.42 PMAlberta has reported its first case of a severe vaping-related lung illness after treating a patient in hospital who was having difficulty breathing.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said officials confirmed the case earlier this week.

“In this particular case, the person had coughing, shortness of breath and needed to be admitted to hospital for treatment. They are now recovering at home,” she said Thursday.

“But we know that vaping can cause these severe lung illness types of disease that we’ve seen reported in the U.S.”

As of Dec. 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States reported 2,561 e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injuries from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Fifty-five deaths have been confirmed in 27 states and D.C.

The Public Health Agency of Canada had asked provincial health officials to report any probable and confirmed cases as part of a national investigation into the illnesses.

The agency’s website shows there were 14 previous cases across the country from May until November 2019 – three in British Columbia, two in New Brunswick, four in Ontario and five in Quebec.

Hinshaw said the Alberta case involves an adult, but declined to provide any additional information about the age or gender of the person for privacy reasons.

“They weren’t feeling well and they sought medical care and then they received the care that they needed, which is exactly what they should do.”

Hinshaw said the investigation into the type of vaping product is ongoing.

“The information we have is that the product was nicotine containing and it was purchased commercially,” she said.

Public health officials again warned that vaping is not without risk and its long-term health impacts are not known.

“Any time someone inhales a compound in their lungs … there is potential that is damaging the lungs,” said Hinshaw. “It’s just a reminder that people need to be aware of that when they are making choices.”

The Alberta government said it has launched a review of its tobacco and smoking reduction act. Officials are expected to provide a final report to the health minister in the coming weeks.

“Based on its findings, we expect to table new vaping-related legislation this spring,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday on Twitter.

 


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Carbon tax rebate amounts reduced in four provinces

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 10.44.00 AMThe federal government has decreased the carbon tax rebates Canadians can expect in the new year in three provinces that have not adopted carbon pricing models that meet federal requirements.

The government has also added Alberta to the mix after that province’s United Conservative party repealed the previous government’s consumer carbon tax.

The biggest drop in the rebate will be in Saskatchewan, where the federal Finance Department says a family of four will qualify for rebates totalling $809 in 2020, down from the $903 that was projected last year.

In Ontario, the rebate for a family of four has been set at $448, down from $451, while families in Manitoba will receive $486, a decrease from $499.

A family of four in Alberta will see a rebate of $888 in 2020.

The rebates are meant to offset the added consumer costs resulting from Ottawa’s carbon tax of $20 per tonne of carbon emitted into the atmosphere for 2020, rising to $30 per tonne in 2021.

The Trudeau government has maintained that most households will receive more money back through the rebates than they pay in carbontaxes on things such as gasoline and home-heating fuels.

The carbon tax scheme was introduced earlier this year as a way to encourage Canadians to use less carbon-based products, thereby reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Here are the rebate amounts for individuals and families, by province, in 2020, according to a government statement:

Ontario:

Single adult or first adult in a couple – $224

Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $112

Each child under 18 – $56

Baseline amount for a family of four – $448

Manitoba:

Single adult or first adult in a couple – $243

Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $121

Each child under 18 – $61

Baseline amount for a family of four – $486

Saskatchewan:

Single adult or first adult in a couple – $405

Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $202

Each child under 18 – $101

Baseline amount for a family of four – $809

Alberta:

Single adult or first adult in a couple – $444

Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $222

Each child under 18 – $111

Baseline amount for a family of four – $888


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‘You can call anything a national concern:’ Alberta questions federal carbon tax

Allowing Ottawa’s carbon tax law to stand would give the federal government a tool it could use to repeatedly chip away at provincial powers, lawyers for the Alberta government argued Monday.

“If you uphold this legislation, you’re opening the door to exactly that type of thing,” Peter Gall told a panel of five Alberta Court of Appeal judges.

The federal government justifies the law under a section of the Constitution that allows Ottawa to step in over issues of “national concern.”

Gall argued such issues are rare. Greenhouse gases don’t meet the test, he said, and letting the carbon tax law stand would open the door to allowing Parliament to step in whenever it wanted.

“You can call anything a national concern,” he told court.

The Constitution gives provinces adequate power to regulate greenhouse gases and Ottawa’s legislation simply ties their hands, Gall said.

“It’s invasive in terms of taking away policy options that would otherwise be open to the provinces.”

Alberta is the latest province to challenge the tax. Ontario and Saskatchewan lost cases in their top courts, but are appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The attorneys-general of Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and British Columbia are also to speak during the three-day hearing in Edmonton. Eight First Nations, non-governmental groups and Crown corporations have also been granted intervener status.

Ottawa argues that authorization for the tax comes under the Constitution’s peace, order and good government clause. Establishing minimum national standards on greenhouse gas emissions “is a matter of national concern that only Parliament can address.”

University of Alberta law professor Eric Adams said using the nation concern argument to justify the law is a bit of a leap.

“The federal government made a gamble here that this was a case that was worth opening up that previously neglected box,” Adams said. “They’ve taken a bit of a risk here.”

He said he believes Alberta is unlikely to win. But if there’s a dissenting judge, that could bolster the government’s argument before the Supreme Court, which has already scheduled a January date for the Ontario and Saskatchewan appeals.

“If they don’t win, they hope for a judgment from some judges that lends weight and credibility, and maybe a new perspective to add to the dissenting opinions that have already been rendered in Saskatchewan and Ontario,” said Adams.

Three out of five Saskatchewan appellate judges agreed with Ottawa, as did four out of five of their Ontario colleagues. Past judgments have recognized the environment as a matter of shared jurisdiction.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney ditched a consumer carbon tax that the previous NDP government had brought in soon after his United Conservatives won the provincial election in April.

He has established a $30-a-tonne carbon tax on industrial emitters, replacing somewhat stronger measures introduced by the former NDP government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have approved that tax.

The consumer carbon tax is to begin in Alberta starting Jan. 1.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said in a statement Monday that Ottawa doesn’t always know best.

“Even if you support a carbon tax, it doesn’t mean that the federal government’s carbon tax is the best or only approach for every province,” he said.

“Each province is unique, with different economies, different demographics, and different geographies. That is why our federation is structured to give provinces the right to make our own laws and regulations over businesses when it comes to issues like reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

 


N.B. premier Blaine Higgs

N.B. premier hopeful final sign off on carbon plan coming early in the new year

The premier of New Brunswick said Monday he hopes to hear back early in the new year about whether the federal government will sign-off on his province’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial emitters.

N.B. premier Blaine Higgs

N.B. premier Blaine Higgs

Blaine Higgs met with the prime minister Monday morning, the latest – and likely last – of the provincial and territorial leaders to meet face-to-face with Justin Trudeau this year in the wake of the October election.

He described the meeting as a cordial get together reflective of a changed tone in federal-provincial relations, a change that’s the result of concerted efforts by provinces, territories and Trudeau to renew a national bond strained by the election results.

One tangible example of those efforts, said Higgs, was the federal government’s decision last week to approve New Brunswick’s consumer carbon pricing plan.

“Getting that behind us . . . is important so that we can move on to other issues,” Higgs said.

Federal approval means as of April, New Brunswick consumers will stop paying the federal carbon tax and instead pay an equivalent provincial version.

Still, the Liberals have yet to do the same for the province’s proposal on regulating heavy emitters.

Higgs said he came away from his meeting with Trudeau with a sense it will go before the federal cabinet as early as the next meeting.

“I would say that early in the new year we should hear something back,” he said.

Higgs had been among the conservative premiers challenging the federal carbon tax in court, but changed course after nearly two-thirds of voters in his province chose a party in favour of the tax in the federal election.

But he said he still supports the idea of a court challenge on the grounds that a decision on whether the federal government has the jurisdiction to impose a new provincial tax could help guide the issue more broadly in the future.

Lawyers for the Alberta government began their arguments on the subject before the Alberta Court of Appeal on Monday.

The case begins in the wake of the Liberals approving that province’s heavy emitters plan earlier this month, just ahead of Trudeau’s meeting with Premier Jason Kenney.

Higgs said he did push Trudeau on why Alberta’s heavy emitters proposal was approved but New Brunswick’s wasn’t.

“We know the plan is similar to what was previously accepted from another province, so we think it’s good to go,” he said.

Higgs said he and other premiers have appreciated what he called Trudeau’s “stellar” efforts at provincial outreach after the election.

“I think the whole demeanour has changed, about our country pulling together,” Higgs said.

Among the topics also discussed Monday was the fate of a private abortion clinic in Fredericton that’s on the brink of closure.

Higgs’ government argues that it does not need to fund private abortion services as the procedure is covered when it is performed in hospital. Supporters of the clinic have said those services are becoming more and more challenging to access, and therefore to not fund private clinics violates the Canada Health Act.

Trudeau had promised during the campaign to ensure the law was upheld, and Higgs said the two discussed – but did not resolve – how it would be.

“We’ll ensure we meet what the prime minister is looking for in terms of accessibility for all patients, and that’s what our goal will be,” he said.

“Where that ends up, I’m not sure. The goal is to ensure we have the accessibility that’s required in our province.”

Higgs said he also received assurances from Trudeau that with the new U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal on the books, the Liberal government will resume effort to find a solution to the decades-old spat over softwood lumber with the U.S., which has had a major impact on the industry in New Brunswick.


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Feds approve Alberta’s carbon tax on big industrial emitters

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The federal government is giving the Alberta government a passing grade for its industrial carbon tax.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says his department agrees Alberta’s planned $30-a-tonne carbon price on emissions from big industry meets federal requirements.

However the climate battles between Ottawa and Edmonton will continue because on Jan. 1 the federal government will still start applying its carbon tax on the purchase in Alberta of fuels like gasoline, natural gas, and propane.

Alberta used to have a consumer carbon tax on fuel but Premier Jason Kenney and the newly elected United Conservative Party cancelled it earlier this year.

A fuel surcharge and a carbon tax for big industry are the two components of the national carbon pricing system applied in any province without similar systems of their own.

Since April, Ottawa has applied the fuel surcharge in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick but Saskatchewan was exempted from most of the big-industry element because it has a version that Ottawa deemed strong enough.